Cobie Smulders — who plays How I Met Your Mother’s Robin Scherbatsky, and is also known as the cast member that is not Doogie, Willow, Nick Andopolis, or the titular “I” — has a momentous episode in store for tonight. To the great excitement of HIMYM diehards, Scherbatsky’s shameful past as Canadian teen-pop sensation Robin Sparkles will once again surface. This time, the gang discovers Robin’s stint on an educational drama called Space Teens, co-starring Jessica Glitter (played by lead Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger) and Alan Thicke. Vulture chatted with Smulders on Sparkles, Glitter, and the singular wonders of the Great White North.
What was your mental state when you heard that Robin Sparkles would be returning?
Sexually aroused? Is that a mental state? I mean, have you seen Nicole Scherzinger? I didn’t hear the song until literally two days before we recorded it, and we always get the tracks with [HIMYM co-creator] Carter [Bays] singing, and he always sings three octaves higher than I can sing, so it’s always kind of weird. Carter and [other HIMYM co-creator] Craig [Thomas] wrote it. They wrote every other Robin Sparkles thing.
How was it decided that now was the right time to bring back Sparkles?
They were trying to think of a good way to bring her back that didn’t involve, you know, another mysterious music video appearing. And they wanted to make some sort of present-day thing, maybe with Alanis Morissette, like we were rivals in Canada. They had a bunch of ideas flying around. And then the idea for a TV show came about. And it was different enough to call for another Robin Sparkles appearance.
How did Nicole Scherzinger get involved?
She was in Rent at the Hollywood Bowl, and Neil Patrick Harris directed it, and Carter and Craig went. And she was phenomenal, and they were like, “We have to bring her on the show somehow.” It was slightly intimidating. When we were in the recording studio, I was like, “Hey, guys? I’m gonna go first. Get this out of the way? So I don’t have to follow her?”
Who else would you like to see Robin Sparkles matched up with?
Let’s get Celine. Let’s do it. A Celine–Robin Sparkles face-off. I don’t want to be cocky, but I feel like Robin Sparkles could kill her. In the musical realm.
Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris have music in their backgrounds. Do they chip in with the Robin Sparkles stuff?
No, it’s a very a Bays–Carter Craig thing. The music is always sort of locked. They have this vision and they stick to it.
The song tonight, “Two Beavers Are Better Than One,” comes back to a common practice on HIMYM, which is making fun of Canadians. You yourself are Canadian, so at what point after you were cast did they decide to make your character Canadian as well?
I have such a vivid memory of this. They came to me, three episodes in, like “Hey, Cobie, listen, we’re thinking of making her Canadian. It’s sort of exotic.” I was like, “Wow, never been told that before in my life, as a Canadian.” They’re like, “Yeah, it’s a good way to sort of shed light on some of the great things about Canada.” You know, universal health care, our school system, the politics. And we had one episode and it did those things, and addressed the negative aspects of the American system versus the Canadian system. And now they just talk shit. They pitched it with really good intentions. And then they gave me one episode.
Moving on to this season — it seems like the writers are maybe setting up a relapse of the Barney-Robin relationship …
Everyone keeps saying that! What are we doing on the show that people are saying that ? It’s one of those relationships that always has potential. Right now I think they’re really good friends and they went through a lot together, and that just made their friendship stronger right now. They could always get back together. I don’t know if they will.
Your character has been ruled out as the mother, but would you also rule out any return to the Ted-Robin relationship?
I don’t know. They don’t tell me anything, honestly. Our show is narrated, so we have a lot of license to be like, they told that story wrong. I don’t know if there’s really a Ted-Robin future, but they surprised me with the Barney relationship, so anything’s possible.
Obviously this is not something that’s never happened on TV before, but how do you feel about the characters on HIMYM going back to being friends pretty quickly after dating?
Well, I had a big issue with Barney and Robin, and I was pretty vocal about it. You know, “I don’t think that Robin would be sitting here as he’s talking about fucking some chick.” And they wrote the episode that revealed she was extremely emotional [after the break up]. It’s hard; you’re trying to please everyone. You’re trying to give the fans what they want, and you’re trying to be realistic and true to the characters. But again, it’s an interesting way to tell a story: There are a lot of loopholes in our show, and it moves very quick. When I was complaining, like, “They just broke up a couple weeks ago!,” it was “Yes, but on the TV it hasn’t been a couple of weeks, it’s been a couple months.”
Some people have suggested HIMYM might benefit from a Lost-style preannounced end point. How much longer do you think the show should run?
Well, we’re slated right now for the end of this and two more, and I think we could finalize the show in that. I always saw the show coming to a close once we met the mother, but again it’s all up for grabs at this point. I feel like in the next couple years, Ted should be finding his lady. That seems right.